The Circus Train

An active railroad spur runs along my back fence. I have lived along that same spur for twenty two years.

The best thing about living next to the tracks is that the circus train passes by twice a year. The circus has its winter quarters, a staging and training area in nearby cities.

The animals all have winter homes in what was at one time rural seclusion. That rural seclusion is now tract homes and strip malls. The first thing that the homeowners associations want to do is to close down those intrusive animal quartering areas.

The first time I watched the circus train go by it was the whole circus. It passed around three a.m. It crawled by. My condo porch overlooked the fence and green belt that hid the tracks but could not hide the growling diesel locomotive or the lighted living quarters cars as they slowly passed.

The locomotives and the living cars were separated by three or four baggage and equipment cars to reduce the noise of the growling diesels. When the kitchen car went by there was alway the smell of bacon and coffee to replace the diesel odor. The more deluxe living cars housed the star and more senior performers. Other less deluxe cars housed the roustabouts. The rousties are skilled labor that never make it onto the advertising but without them, there would be no performance.

Just behind the roustabout cars there would be the animal cars. The big cats were usually in wheeled enclosures that would be covered with tarps. Next would be the horse, zebra and pony cars. Then in no particular order that I could fathom, the camels, the lamas and any other specialty animals that a particular tour (The Red Tour or the Blue Tour)the circus was featuring. As the cars clicked and moaned along, the smell from the animal cars would be quite penetrating and pungent. All the animal cars had an attendant who could occasionally be seen leaning out a belt line high window or dutch door.

After the animal cars there would be the rolling stock flatcars for the tractors and semi-trucks, trailers and lift equipment. There would also be specialty wagons and carriages for the walk to the hosting arena and for the grand procession that started and ended each show on the perimeter of the rings.

Sad to say for me, but the size of the Circus Train has been greatly reduced over the years and for the last three years it has been especially less than spectacular. My town sees the second inaugural show of the year. The first show is always in Tampa and the second show is in St. Petersburg. The tour train does not become fully assembled now until it heads for Orlando

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